HOME : We will explore if misogyny is religiously sanctioned or men took it upon themselves to make it work for them, and in the process made a villain out of God and religion. One sentence that I have been repeating lately is "for every Muslim ass, there is a Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh or other ass" add hole if you need to.You cannot single out or blame any one religion or tradition, the representatives of religions make us decide about religion. We need to rise about stereotyping. We should not relish in putting down others. Finding the truth is our own responsiblity. Mike Ghouse

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Gender apartheid is real in UK universities. So why aren't more people fighting it?

Its just not UK, this is all over the world. The Jewish women are fighting for this in Israel for a long time, its happening elsewhere.  I have noted in my comments earlier in a similar posting , that separation is not much of a problem in societies with similar culture like India, Pakistan, Arab Nations and elsewhere, where Hindus, Muslim, Christians, Sikhs follow the separation in places of worship and schools, and it is a norm. The problem occurs when it become a legal separation in mixed cultures and one is forced to sit separately - not a cultural norm of the society in UK, US or other western nations. It should be a choice, wherever the girls want to sit.
Mike Ghouse

As 8,000 people sign a petition against gender segregation in British universities, a rally last night attracted only 100 protesters. Who is fighting the good fight, asks Emma Pearce

Campaigners protest against gender segregation in British universities
Campaigners protest against gender segregation in British universities 

University degrees were first offered to women in the UK in 1878, but last night, stood in front of the London headquarters of Universities UK, which claims to be ‘the voice for UK universities’, it appeared that the fight for equality is far from over.
Standing in Tavistock Square on a freezing December night, over 100 campaigners and students gathered to protest against the "shame of gender apartheid" at universities.
Last month, new guidelines from Universities UK suggested institutions could allow gender segregation during lectures given by external speakers, based on the teachings of their religion, as "there does not appear to be any discrimination on gender grounds merely by imposing segregated seating".

The rally last night was purposefully held on International Human Rights Day and on the day of Nelson Mandela's memorial, to expose the fact that gender segregation is widespread.
The protest came after some 8,000 people signed a petition to rescind endorsement of sex segregation at UK Universities.
The rally against gender segregation

Maryam Namazie, a researcher at the University of London and one of the organisers of the event, said that she has noticed a rise of Islamism across UK Universities that is not truly representing the views of most Muslims. She said: “In the UUK’s efforts to be inclusive they are encouraging sexism and endorsing discrimination.

“It's about free speech and its about Islamists imposing their rules and projecting women as symbols of chaos in society."

A whole host of speakers were at the protest that climaxed in the chanting of ‘shame on UUK’ directed at the organisation’s headquarters.

A report in the spring revealed gender segregation, at events run solely by student Islamic

societies or in the interests of Muslims, is widespread.

Student Rights, which carried out the research, found that radical preachers spoke at 180 events at universities including Cardiff and University College London (UCL) between March 2012 and March 2013. Segregated seating for men and women was promoted or implied at more than a quarter of the events, at 21 separate institutions.

“Words cannot fully describe what I feel today,” said Pragna Patel, director of Southall Black Sisters, a feminist group. “Rage, indignation and sorrow are just some that spring to mind.” And she went on to say “that the assertion of religious political power obliterates the very ideas of liberty and equality that so many people lived for and died for”.

‘Separate but equal’ is not equal at all was the message being spread by protesters. And of course it isn’t. By pursuing the appeasement of these religious fundamentalists anyone is right to question where this might end?

You would also be right to question why splitting people on race or sexuality would cause public outrage but splitting people on gender has received relatively little attention?

Last night's protest echoed much of what Nelson Mandela fought for. Ms Patel likened the two examples by saying that UUK’s justification for its actions was that it was “trying to uphold equalities law [but] this was the same defence they used for racial apartheid in South Africa”.

The protesters seemed very inspired by the legacy of Mandela and felt that much that he supported could be used in their fight for co-education.

Most of us might think that we have come a huge way in equality in education but what the report of the UUK has exposed is that we still have a long way to go.
Does the UK have a problem with co-education between men and women?

Helen Palmer, chair of the Secular Europe Campaign, said last night that Cambridge University offered its first degree to women in 1948 and Oxford is celebrating its 40th anniversary of co-education this year. But she said that St Bennets, a boys only college at Oxford, is only now, in 2013, considering allowing female students.

Two young women at the rally, from Oxbridge, were concerned about the progress of girls in higher education.

 Geetanjali Normande, 20, and Radha Bhatt, 19, at the protest

Radha Bhatt, 19, a student at Cambridge University, said: "I am absolutely shocked and concerned that this segregation is still going on … the idea that Muslim leaders are uncomfortable with men and women sitting together and that UUK is appeasing them shows that they have a problem with co-education.”

Geetanjali Normande, 20, from Oxford University, said: "It scares me that institutions like UUK which exist to represent universities and the student body find that it is acceptable to condone this. It sounds like they are so far removed from what it is to be a student and to be told that you can’t sit where you want to in your lecture.

“I grew up in a very religious background but my family are extremely supportive of me getting an education.”

So it begs the question do we still need to be fighting for co-education? Should we be encouraging people to move away from gender-apartheid and see people instead as individuals who must be treated equally? The protesters clearly think there is a long way to go and a big battle still to fight.

UUK last night defended its
report. A statement said: “The guidance does not promote gender segregation. It includes a hypothetical case study involving an external speaker talking about his orthodox religious faith who had requested segregated seating areas for men and women.
"The case study considered the facts, the relevant law and the questions that the university should ask, and concluded that if neither women nor men were disadvantaged.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the National Union of Students, which represents students, said it support the rights of groups to self organise how they wish but it would be "concerned about enforced segregation and certainly does not endorse it."

An NUS statement said: "We believe the Universities UK guidance is saying that the university needs to take law into account when making decisions about what can and can’t happen on a campus.

“A university has a legal duty to protect freedom of speech, but also whilst protecting student safety and balancing a competing range of conflicting duties, such as equality, or the right to protest."

Emma Pearce is a second year politics student at the University of Nottingham. Follow her on Twitter @EmmaPearcee

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Jimmy Carter: How religion subjugates women

I have always been a great admirer of President Jimmy Carter, a great humanist. This is a good article to read and reflect. Mike Ghouse

The former president speaks out against doctrine used to promote misogyny and abuse. Are you listening, Obama?

Courtesy: Salon

Topics: Religion, Broadsheet, Life News

“The Words of God Do Not Justify Cruelty to Women“: That’s the title of an Op-Ed that ran in the U.K. Observer earlier this week. It wasn’t written by a feminist theologian like Karen Armstrong or one of the women on President Obama’s faith-based council — but by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

In the article, Carter explains his painful decision to split with the Southern Baptist Church “when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be ‘subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.”

Carter left the Souther Baptists in 2000, when he was 76. He was writing this Op-Ed as one of a dozen world leaders organized two years ago by Nelson Mandela. The Elders, as they call themselves are, well, older and out of public office. They bring their stature and wisdom to the intractable, often unpopular political issues of our time and seek not to solve them but to make them more visible. They are the people many of us have come to love — Desmond Tutu, Muhammad Yunus, Kofi Annan, men with sweet demeanors and nice smiles and real records of changing the world. Some of the world’s strongest and most accomplished women are part of the group, too: Gro Brundtland, Mary Robinson, Aung San Suu Kyi, Graca Machel and Ela Bhatt, who has organized self-employed women workers in India into a powerful force for change.

Now they are taking on religious and traditional practices that harm women. And they chose Jimmy Carter to issue the opening salvo. Carter, it has been said, is a better man than he was president, and he has been proving it since he left office. He’s gotten better with the passage of time. Carter once fired Bella Abzug, whom he had appointed to head his National Advisory Committee on Women. And as a Southern Baptist and Sunday school teacher, he never seemed much interested in women. But 10 years ago, when the Southern Baptist Convention definitively ruled out equality for women and blamed us for original sin, he up and quit the church.
Carter pulls no punches in his Op-Ed. Religious discrimination against women has, he says, “provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries. The male interpretations of religious texts and the way they interact with, and reinforce, traditional practices justify some of the most pervasive, persistent, flagrant and damaging examples of human rights abuses.” He continues: ”The truth is that male religious leaders have had — and still have — an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter.”

Carter and the Elders are equal-opportunity critics. No country or religion, no practices go uncriticized. Discriminatory religious beliefs are described as “repugnant.” They are used to excuse “slavery, forced prostitution, genital mutilation.” They cost women and girls “control over their own bodies and lives.”

Carter touches on some of the most important aspects of discrimination that have an impact on development and poverty, noting that many women “face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.” The fact that over a half a million women die each year from preventable conditions during pregnancy and childbirth is one of the continuing tragedies of poor international leadership.

Islam does not escape criticism as Carter notes that “In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.”

The U.S. is not let off the hook, either. Carter links the flawed conservative interpretation of scripture to the kind of “discriminatory thinking … behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in Britain and the United States.”

The big question is whether Carter’s message will get much play at the White House. Past efforts by the former president have not had much traction. For Obama, who has indicated a commitment to women’s rights worldwide but who has approached religion with great deference, there is much to ponder in Carter’s message.

Women’s equality cannot be achieved without stepping on the toes of traditional interpretations of women’s lack of rights that permeate the world’s — and Christianity’s — texts. Carter gets it: “I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge.”

His Op-Ed closes with the following words: “We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world’s major faiths share. “

Let’s hope our Obama and his faith-based council are listening.

Frances Kissling is a visiting scholar at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the former president of Catholics for a Free Choice. More Frances Kissling.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

First woman to lead Friday prayers in UK

UK has its first (born) Muslim woman lead prayers
URL - http://genderpluralismcenter.blogspot.com/2013/12/first-woman-to-lead-friday-prayers-in-uk.html

The story is same with Muslims as it is with Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and others. A woman cannot lead the respective prayers. At the Parliament of world's religions in Melbourne in 2009, we pushed the panel of some 12 men representing each faith as to why? The best honest answer came from the Catholic Bishop, "this is what we are told to do". Indeed, the change has to ease into the new norms, it just cannot happen because some one wants it. As we go forward, we will present the stories of all faiths with similar stories.

However, the reformed movements in all the faiths have opened it up. Just this week in the UK, a Synagogue was severely criticized for letting women touch the Torah Scrolls and carry it to read in the Temple.

Muslims have raised hell and have gotten ugly when the first Muslim woman led prayers were held in New York by Dr. Amina Wadud in 2003 or 2004. They held disgusting placards outside the place of worship, it was embarrassing the way a few Muslims reacted to it.

There is nothing wrong in a woman leading the prayer. Islam is not a negative religion, it's positive. No where in Quran or Hadith it's banned women from leading the prayers. Just because it was not done before, it does not mean you cannot do it now. Prophet would have driven a car if there was one, that does not mean we have to ride camels. Men should feel secure, they are not losing their jobs.

Blaming the west is not true and it is a conspiracy spun by a few.  I have been a supporter of this movement since 2003, when Dr. Amina Wadud led the first Juma prayers - she was on my Radio show. A lot has been debated since, it will take another generation to accept this, but it will be over a period of time. It will take another three generations to get this change to become a norm in Asia and perhaps a century in Arab lands.  The Christians, Jews and Hindus need to gloat, on one can have the last laugh.

Islam is not a negative and restrictive religion... it started with a command to recite, learn, read.... and we must.

Mike Ghouse is a Muslim speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism
, Islaminterfaith and other topics. He is committed to nurturing pluralistic values embedded in Islam and building cohesive Socieities and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day, all his writings are at www.TheGhouseDiary.com   

First woman to lead Friday prayers in UK

A Canadian author will become the first Muslim-born woman to lead a mixed-gender British congregation through Friday prayers tomorrow in a highly controversial move that will attempt to spark a debate about the role of female leadership within Islam.
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Raheel Raza, a rights activist and Toronto-based author, has been asked to lead prayers and deliver the khutbah at a small prayer session in Oxford.

She has been invited by Dr Taj Hargey, a self-described imam who preaches an ultra-liberal interpretation of Islam which includes, among other things, that men and women should be allowed to pray together and that female imams should lead mixed congregations in prayer.

Three of the four mainstream schools of Sunni Islam allow women to lead exclusively female congregations for prayer, but the overwhelming majority of Muslim jurists are opposed to the notion of their presiding over mixed congregations outside the home.

Raza, 60, is part of a small but growing group of Muslim feminists who have tried to challenge the mindset that has traditionally excluded women from leadership roles within the mosque. They argue that nowhere in the Koran are female imams expressly forbidden. Instead scholars rely on the hadiths (the words and sayings of the Prophet Mohamed) to exclude women - although Muslim feminists and some progressive scholars argue that even these are not clear enough to say with confidence that women are altogether banned.

Ms Raza received death threats after leading a mixed-gender prayer congregation in Toronto five years ago.

"It was a very profound experience," Ms Raza said yesterday in a telephone conversation from her home in Toronto. "It's not about taking the job of an imam. It's about reminding the Muslim community that 50 per cent of its adherents are women who are equal to men. Women are equally observant, practising Muslims who deserve to be heard."

Ms Raza's appearance in Oxford is a repeat of a similar prayer session in 2008 which was led by Amina Wadud, an American-born convert and Muslim feminist. But this is the first time a Muslim-born woman will lead a mixed prayer service in Britain.

Ms Wadud's prayers were attended by a small congregation of less than 40 who were heckled on their way in to prayers by protesters, largely by fully veiled Muslim women. Once inside the prayer hall, meanwhile, they were comprehensively outnumbered by journalists.

But Dr Hargey, a divisive figure within British Islam who runs the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford, said his congregation had since grown and attracted new followers.

"For Friday prayers we now receive about 100 people, twice that for Eid prayers and important occasions," he said. "I am expecting about 200 people to attend this Friday's prayers."

In recent years there has been a growing demand from Muslim women to be included and represented at their mosques. Earlier this week Faith Matters, a conflict resolution think-tank funded by the Government and private benefactors, released a list of 100 women-friendly mosques. The number of female Muslim scholars, meanwhile, often referred to as imamahs, are also on the rise.

Ms Raza, who is due to fly into Britain this morning, said she was aware that she would be preaching to the converted tomorrow. "But it's about opening one heart, one mind at a time," she added.

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Faisal Hameed on facebook shares this:

Umme Waraqa, may Allah be pleased with her, was a woman from Ansar of Madinah who embraced Islam in its early phase. She is one among the holy companions of the Prophet as she is reported to have offered her services for the Battle of Badr to the Prophet and requested him to take her along as she wanted to fight the enemy.

But there is a much more surprising aspect that she was appointed imam of a mosque in her locality in Madinah and that men prayed behind her. The muezzin was a man. It is therefore obvious that he too prayed behind the female imam. This account occurs in the Sunan of Abu Dawood and Masnad of Ahmad bin Hanbal. She was appointed the imam around the time of Battle of Badr and she was alive till the last years of the caliphate of Hazrat Umar, may Allah be pleased with him. This means that she led the prayer for nearly 17 years.

This has been quoted by Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah, the noted Islamic scholar and author hailing from Hyderabad, who located himself in Paris after the fall of Hyderabad. (Ref: Muhammad Hamidullah, The Emergence of Islam : Bahawalpur Lecture on the Development of Islamic Worldview, Intellectual Tradition and Polity, Adam Publishers & Distributors, New Delhi). There are also references to Nafisah Bint al-Hasan Ibn Zayd Ibn al-Hasan Ibn Ali leading Imam Shafii’s funeral prayers. Ahmed E. Souaiaia’s book Contesting Justice: Women, Islam Law and Society (Published by State University of New York Press, 2008) while quoting this says in bibliographical note that “the practice of women leading the prayers was common in early Islam”. (He refers to Ahmad Ibn Ali al-Maqrizi’s book al-Khutat al-maqriziyyah published by Dar Sadir, Beirut).

About Umme Waraqa the website http://www.wisemuslimwomen.org has the following to say:

Umm Waraqa bint Abdallah, or Umm Waraqa, was the Prophet Muhammad’s companion. She was well versed in the Quran and the Prophet trained her and allowed her to lead mixed-gender prayers. Whether the hadith refers to leading prayers in a residence or a community is open to interpretation. Even so, she was the imam of her clan, which was significant and large enough to have its own muezzin.

Umm Waraqa wished to be known as a martyr, so she asked Prophet Muhammad to allow her to participate in the Battle of Badr (624 A.D./ 2 A.H.) so that she could take care of the wounded; from that time on, Prophet Muhammad referred to her as “the female martyr.”

There is no question that the vast majority of jurists excluded women from ever leading men in prayer. Many jurists, however, permitted women to lead women in prayer, if no male is available to lead the prayer. Some jurists said women may lead women even if a male is available to lead as long as women lead only women. Up to the fourth Islamic century, there were at least two schools of thought that allowed women to lead men in prayer, if the woman in question was the most learned. Since the fourth century all schools of thought did not allow women to lead men in prayer.

The powerful clique that has arrogated for itself the right to interpretation of Islam today has inherited the bias against women handed down from centuries. It is more focused on narrowing freedoms and constricting liberties that were enjoyed by Muslims in general and women in particular, in the earliest period of Islam and allowed by the holy Prophet. The current clergy, which has no religious legitimacy in Islam, has worked overtime to usurp all rights of interpretation for itself. First it excluded women. So half the Muslims were barred from exercising the religious authority and putting to use their knowledge and rationale. Then it marginalized a vast body of Muslims who did not know Arabic. And finally it began to question the right of interpretation of those who were not educated and trained in madrassas. Today, the entire community is compelled to follow diktats of a few who have no knowledge of social, economic and political issues. Their patriarchal interpretation dominates the discourse delivering a daily diet of embarrassment to the enlightened Muslims. It is for people like you to counter such tendencies.

The above information is not verified

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Judeo-Christian Plan for Women

                         The Judeo-Christian Plan for Women
                             Rev. Marylou Ghyst,   June 7, 2010

URL - http://genderpluralismcenter.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-judeo-christian-plan-for-women.html

Divine order is first law of the universe.  When both male and female follow God's plan for their lives, there is Divine Order.  Ideally, our mission in life should not be left to chance or control by others - God knows what will satisfy us and where we can excel and thereby help others.  This Plan is revealed to all who ask - see the prayer for God's Plan at the end of this presentation.

Differences.  There are no intellectual or spiritual differences between male and female unless artificially created by men controlling women and refusing to educate them.  The term “Weaker Sex” refers to physical strength.  It has nothing to do with moral character, intellectual ability, or spirituality.

The Ideal Woman is described in the Bible as one who operates her own business, oversees employees, buys property, is productive in society, gives to the needy, educates, creates, raises a family, and does many things that indicate freedom and responsibility.  A woman clothes herself with strength and dignity and teaches wisdom.  Her children call her blessed and her husband praises her.  A woman who reveres the Lord is to be praised; give her the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her, Proverbs 31:10-31.  This scripture was written over 2500 years ago.

Female Leaders:  We find successful women throughout the Bible including very early history. Moses' sister, Miriam was a prophetess.  Deborah was an appointed leader of her people; it was also her responsibility to lead military battles in which she was successful.  Barak, a male acquaintance, refused to go into battle without her, Judges 4:5-9.  We have Esther who saved her people from annihilation, Esther 8 & 9.  Jesus never discriminated against educating women, Lu. 10:38-42.  We have women including Mary Magdalene, who remained with Jesus as he died while the male disciples fled in terror (Mark 15:40-41).  And the 3 women who were there when Jesus rose from the dead (Mark 16:1-8).  As the teachings of Jesus spread, Lydia, a Gentile self-employed shopkeeper, offered her home as the first indoor church for Christians, even though it was a dangerous thing to do as Christians refused emperor imposed  sacrifices, Acts 16. 

Jesus in India:  Some believe Jesus traveled to India.  In Jesus in India by Nicholas Notovitch published in 1854, the author recounts Jesus' teachings while in India: It is not good for a son to push away his mother that he may occupy the place that belongs to her. Whoso doth not respect his mother-the most sacred being after his God-is unworthy of the name of son. Hearken to what I say to you: Respect woman; for in her we see the mother of the universe, and all the truth of divine creation is to come through her.  She is the fount of everything good and beautiful, as she is also the germ of life and death…  Be submissive to your wife; her love ennobles man, softens his hardened heart, tames the wild beast in him and changes it to a lamb.  Wife and mother are the priceless treasures that God has given to you. They are the most beautiful ornaments of the universe, and from them will be born all who will inhabit the world. Even as the Lord of Hosts separated the light from darkness, and the dry land from the waters, so does woman possess the divine gift of calling forth out of man's evil nature all the good that is in him. Therefore I say unto you, after God, to woman must belong your best thoughts; for she is the divine temple where you will most easily obtain perfect happiness.

Successful Women:  Recommended reading - Some Are Born Great, by Adela Rogers St. Johns, a history of successful 19th & 20th century women who have made profound contributions to society including Mary Baker Eddy who is described as “the greatest American woman of all time.”  After she healed herself through faith, she organized and founded a major religion (Christian Science) from which the New Thought Christian movement sprang, including Unity, Religious Science, Divine Science, Science of Mind, etc.  A few years later, Unity came into existence through the faith healing of Myrtle Fillmore, co-founder, based on Mary Baker Eddy's teachings.  This took place in the middle and late 1800's.  We can see God's Plan for women in ministry emerging - ordination of women began in the late 1800's - females comprise half the New Thought Christian ministers then and now.

Parenthood & Outside Work: Charles & Myrtle Fillmore, co-founders of my sect, Unity, were parents of three boys.  Charles' mother gladly moved in with them to take care of their boys and domestic chores while both parents, Charles & Myrtle, devoted themselves to running Unity School.  When we are living God's Plan, a way is always provided for both outside work and domestic work.  And -- God's Plan does not always include parenthood. 

Time Frames: Many become aware of God's plan for their life before age 12.  They have a goal or passion for something they want to pursue.  Parents would do well to nurture these goals even though the Divine Plan may not come into full blossom until mid-life.  This blossoming of God's Plan is symbolized in the Bible by the number 40 which is a metaphor for “a time frame.”   There are generally 3 time frames in our life, the 3rd of which is the full blossoming of God's Plan that often begins in midlife.

God's Plan for our Life -- short version prayer:  God has a plan for my life. It is hidden within me, just as a beautiful rose is hidden within a bud.  As I ask for guidance, the Plan is revealed, and my mind and heart are filled with deep inner joy.   God's Plan is part of a larger Plan, designed for the good of all, and not for me alone.

I do not look with sadness or envy at what others are receiving, nor do I compare myself with them.  As my Divine Plan is gradually revealed, I grow in Spiritual consciousness and joy.  This inner knowing frees me from fear, jealousy, and resentment, and gives me the courage and faith to do those things that are mine to do.  If any door should close, it is because another door, which will bring greater joy, is being opened.

I praise God's Plan that brings joy to me and others.  I give thanks that childhood dreams, as yet unrealized, will materialize in ways that will satisfy me and also satisfy others, for He has promised to open His hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing, Ps. 145:16.   Amen.         ~~~~~~~  

The Archdiocese of Granada, Spain, publishes a book that teaches women to be “obedient and submissive”.

Even though the  Archdiocese' authority is embossed on this book, I would not take it as Christian theology. For millions of Christians, his word is the final word, and I do hope that Pope Francis will speak up, not to negate the Archdiocese, but to acknowledge that it is a cultural thing for the family members to trust each other and obey each other for harmony, as long as it is common good of the family without undue sacrifice from any one. However, I believe, that he will clarify that it is not the teachings of Catholicism.  Mike Ghouse

The Archdiocese of Granada, Spain, publishes a book that teaches women to be “obedient and submissive”.

The editorial “Nuevo Inicio” (New Beginning), presided over by the archdiocese of Granada, Spain, headed by the Archbishop Javier Martínez, has just published, in Spanish, the book titled “Cásate y Sé Sumisa” (Marry and be Obedient). http://www.nuevoinicio.es/libros/casate-y-se-sumisa/ (In Spanish)

Archbishop Javier Martinez
Archbishop Javier Martinez, above.

The book, “Cásate y Sé Sumisa”, by the Italian author, Constanza Miriano, has already sold 70,000 copies in Italy.  As of yet, it is too early to know how many books have been sold in Spain.  Miriano writes in her blog (in Italian, constanzamiriano.com) that “woman must get away from the logic of emancipation and embrace, with joy,  the role of hospitality and service”.  She also states that a relationship between two people should be based on power on one side and submission on the other.

Here again is a classic example of how the Catholic church does its best to keep women and humanity, by extension, in the dark ages. It uses all means available to try and keep roughly one half of its followers (women) subservient and enslaved to the whims and wishes of the other half (men).  The message here to Catholic men is: “We will allow you to subjugate your wives and will give you our blessing to do so.  This is the will of the Church and of God”.  Whenever an organization or a person empowers its followers to carry out their wishes, fanatics are created, augmenting the sense of grandeur that one is doing the right thing for the glory of God.  The flock that blindly goes where the shepherd wishes and does his bidding without question will: foment chauvinism, discriminate against women, take their rights away and if women don’t humbly accept this, then they will be subjected to some manner of violence, be it physical or psychological by making them feel guilty for not doing God’s will. And what’s so dangerous about all of this?  There are actually women who will go along wholeheartedly with this neanderthal way of thinking and raise their children to believe that this is the way.  This sounds like a mysogynist’s dream come true.

I think it’s ironically sad that a publishing house named “Nuevo Inicio” (New Beginning) actually edits this kind of rhetoric.  New Beginning?  I guess so ladies, read this book and you will be introduced to a really new beginning, one without rights or respect and, what can be expected from the head of the publishing house, the archbishop Javier Martinez, when he comes out with statements like “only through faith in God can unemployment be solved in Spain”. (Note: Spain is suffering from 20%-25% unemployment).  It’s the same old story, God sent a hurricane because there’s gay marriage, God sent a crazy person to kill kids in a school because religion was removed from the classrooms…so, God has caused unemployment because faith in God has declined (radically I’m happy to say) in Spain.

To top this off, this sado/masochistic manual is authored by a woman.  She is intent on having women lose their rights. Rights that they have won with blood, sweat and tears,  rights that have taken decades to get, rights that so many have died for.  Where is equality and respect that is the basis of any relationship?  What morality is this coming from the institution that professes to be the most moral of all?  The church and its narrow minded leaders remind me of the great dictators of the world, the Hitlers, Stalins, Maos, etc…who were so successful in causing their countries and societies to regress decades if not centuries, but at least the world knew that these men were evil and what their intentions were.  What we have here is a classic case of a wolf in sheep’s skin willing and wanting to tear down from the inside any advancement that humanity has made, while on the outside appearing to be the saviors and holders of the truth.

Source: http://religionhurtshumanity.com/2013/11/the-archdiocese-of-granada-spain-publishes-a-book-that-teaches-women-to-be-obedient-and-submissive/

Phony Muslimness among Muslim boys in Schools and Colleges in UK - World Muslim Congress.com

I am concerned about the segregated seating arrangements in colleges and Universities for seminars and other educational activities organized by Muslim Students Associations in the United Kingdom.

Unlike the Students Association in the United States, where both men and women manage and participate, the MSA's in UK seem to be run over by the boys. These boys become
instantaneously Sanctimonious Muslims when they have a responsibility to manage a Muslim loaded event. The more they "control" women to go sit elsewhere, the greater the Muslim they become! What a phony Muslimness!

It's not only the boys, some of the Imams who come around to give Sermons at special events, invariably make a comment to women sitting somewhere in the darkness in the back to quit gossiping! Darn it, when your lecture is so idiotic, men do the same, either gossip or go to their i-phones and Samsungs.  I am glad I don't go to these events, but when I do, I will tear them apart for such an abusive and disrespectful comment towards women. Remember, our silence gives them permission to continue doing the wrong. Speak up; the other goats will jump in later.

Steering women and men to different sitting areas in the name of Islam needs to go. A man or a woman should have the freedom to choose, where he or she is comfortable to sit, nothing should be forced on. There should be no compulsion.

Do they teach that Islam is about regulating your own behavior to be a kind, gentle, truthful, trustworthy and caring and just individual,  the Amin, as the Prophet was called. Indeed, that should be the first foundational Sunnah for Muslims to follow.
Islam is not about controlling others personal behavior.  Islam is about freedom - you are individually rewarded or deprived with the grace of God for your acts, neither the Muslim Students Association nor the Mufti of your town is even remotely accountable for your acts.  Even Prophet Muhammad, let alone your parents, spouse, siblings, or your Imam will not come to your rescue in your reflective solitude or the Day of Judgment. Prophet Muhammad did not assign the responsibility to teach Quran to anyone either.

The Hijab or segregation is a cultural product of predominantly Muslim nations, there is no sanction for it in Islam. The very first and foremost place of worship does not have segregation, even to this day.  Men and women perform Hajj together, God wants all of us together without distinction.

Muslims living in UK, US, France, Canada or elsewhere have their own culture, or modified culture without any reluctance. Unlike Saudi Arabia, where women are taken care of, the women living in other nations have to learn to live on their own, earn their own and support their kids if they have to, and their culture should be based on their needs and not the needs of Saudi Arabia. 

Shame on those parents who make their daughters dependent on men, and when that man dies, or runs off - it puts the woman in a difficult situation. Is that how the parents care for their daughters?  She should be free and able to handle her own affairs. The prophet had said to Fatima, you will not get a free ticket to paradise just because you are my daughter; you have to earn it like everyone else.

If a woman is trained to live in segregation how would she handle in situations when her father, brother, husband or son is not around. Love is not making a dependent out of the loved ones. If we love, yes, if we love our loved ones, we make them independent, free and able to stand on their own in contingencies with the least suffering.

By the way the stories are similar with Sikhs, Hindus, Jains,  Christians and others from Asia.

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism
, politics, peace, Islam, Israel, India, interfaith, and cohesion at work place. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at www.TheGhousediary.com. He believes in Standing up for others and has done that throughout his life as an activist. Mike has a presence on national and local TV, Radio and Print Media. He is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News; fortnightly at Huffington post; and several other periodicals across the world. His personal site www.MikeGhouse.net indexes all his work through many links.

How do universities deal with gender segregation?


University chiefs are struggling to decide whether they should try to stop events where women can't sit with men

Some wish to sit only with their own sex while others regard this as 'gender apartheid'. How can universities win? Photograph: Jeremy Pardoe/newsteam.co.uk

"The day before the event, we got an email to say it was segregated and we were very shocked," says Razana Abdul, a Muslim student, who is at university in London. She's speaking about an event at University College London in March, run by an organisation called the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA)."I wanted to sit with my boyfriend. And there was a man ushering men to the men's side and a woman ushering women to the women's side." She was upset by the experience. "It was gender apartheid," she says.

Universities are struggling with the ethical dilemma of how far they can or should intervene to prevent distress caused by such situations. How can a university's equality and diversity policy be enforced at events where some audience members want to sit only with their own gender and others wish to exercise their right to sit wherever they want?

Reports of a gender-segregated event run by Leicester University's student Islamic society, together with media coverage of the UCL event, prompted monitoring group Student Rights, which works to counter university extremism and is funded by private donations, to re-analyse the 180 campus-based events it had logged between March 2012 and March 2013 as "of concern" because of the nature of the speaker.

Its report states that 46 out of the 180 events at 21 separate university campuses "were found to have either explicitly promoted segregation by gender, or implied that this would be the case, with six of these cancelled before taking place".

All the events were either organised by student Islamic societies or were focused on issues of interest to Muslims. There is now considerable concern - including from the report's author, full-time Student Rights researcher Rupert Sutton - that subsequent media reporting of these findings made out that gender segregation was itself evidence of radicalism. "It's important that this issue isn't conflated with extremism itself," says Sutton. "We as an organisation are not conflating gender segregation with extremism."

"It's not right to say that any kind of gender segregation is necessarily wrong," says Jo Attwooll, policy adviser at the vice-chancellors' group Universities UK, which has just launched the Safe Campus Communities website, offering higher education institutions advice on how to exercise their legal responsibilities on safeguarding for students and staff.

A good indication of the sensitivity around gender segregation is that universities are not keen to discuss it openly. Of the seven universities named in the report that were contacted by Education Guardian - Aston, Queen Mary, London South Bank, Portsmouth, Kingston, Leicester and UCL - only UCL was willing to put forward a senior member of staff to answer questions. The others issued statements.

There is clear tension between the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 - which says universities must help to eliminate unlawful discrimination and harassment, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different groups - and their duties under the Education Act 1986, which says university premises must not be barred to anyone on the grounds of their beliefs or views. This was brought in partly to stop Labour-controlled student unions denying a platform to Conservative student associations and the speakers they wanted to bring in. But campaigners now argue that universities hide behind the 1986 act to avoid antagonising faith groups, or opening themselves to possible litigation by giving equality legislation higher priority - in the case of gender segregation, this would mean saying plainly that this must not happen on university premises.

The phrase institutions are now hanging on to for dear life is "voluntary segregation", meaning that separating the sexes is permitted, even if some of those attending wish to sit with the opposite sex.

Leicester University says in its statement: "Where there is a public event and individuals attending wish, by their own free choice, to sit separately in the same hall, then that is a matter for them." Aston, LSBU, Portsmouth and Kingston follow the same line.

Following the March event that upset some students at UCL, the university banned the IERA from campus. The vice-provost, Rex Knight, points to the form of words agreed by UCL that is now sent to anyone wishing to book rooms on campus. While enforced segregation will not be permitted, UCL states that "it is acceptable for individuals attending events to choose to sit with members of their own gender. If individuals attending an event wish to segregate themselves on a voluntary basis, it is not acceptable for other members of the audience to compel them to mix, and to do so may constitute harassment."

This might sound like a reasonable compromise, but Abdul points out that voluntary self-segregation has serious limitations, most importantly for Muslim women like herself who may feel it is impossible to go against the flow. "If you don't want to be segregated, there's social pressure. I do actually regret not standing up and going and sitting in the men's section as a form of protest." For mixed groups [at the UCL event] there were just two rows in a huge auditorium made available for "couples". Abdul says anyone choosing to sit there would have been very obviously rejecting the "norm" being imposed. "We'd look like the evil ones, choosing to sit there in the middle," she explains.

Universities, she says, are anxious not to "discriminate against Muslim people's practices, but this is a minority of Muslims. I'm a Muslim, an Asian woman, and I felt intimidated."

It's a good point, agrees Knight, but it is a view that university senior management has to hold in balance with others. "I was contacted by other female Muslim students who said they'd felt very upset that some male students had tried to sit with them," he says. "One would hope that common sense and good behaviour would prevail. We are making our view clear to organisers that no pressure should be made to 'voluntarily' segregate."
PhD student Michael Jathe, who also attended the UCL event, says universities must define very clearly what they mean by "voluntary" so that heavy-handed "encouragement" to segregate does not creep in. "I believe some religious groups are trying to carve out areas of public space where they can set the rules. This is why universities have equality and diversity policies."

Attwooll says the approach many universities now take as part of their room-booking process is to ensure their policy on equality and diversity is sent out and that organisations say they are willing to abide by its conditions. Bradford is one institution that goes further - it explicitly requires that "the advice of the Equality Unit must be sought before planning a segregated or single-sex event or part-event."

Universities need to arm themselves with facts about events taking place, says Attwooll. "As part of a booking process for external speakers, UUK would say that there should be an examination of how that event is to be run," she says. "Groups that may have a desire for there to be some sort of segregation, whether enforced or voluntary, should be entirely transparent about that, and allow the university to make a judgment."

If gender segregation becomes more prevalent at university events, with some students wanting it and others deeply opposed, vice-chancellors may struggle to find a solution that keeps everyone happy - and themselves within the law.
Some names have been changed

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Hinduism and status of Women

Hinduism and Status of Women
URL - http://genderpluralismcenter.blogspot.com/2013/12/hinduism-and-status-of-women.html

Vijay Khurana

Every day morning when I read the newspaper I feel confused whether to say I’m Proud to be an Indian or I’m Ashamed to be an Indian.  Are we actually moving forward to becoming a developed and responsible nation and society Or Are we moving backwards?  Infact moving backward would have been more pleasant considering the glorious past of our nation. 

Participation of women in London Olympics is the highest ever almost equal to men.  A young girl gang raped and killed in a moving bus on the busiest streets of Delhi. Saina Nehwal, Sunita Williams, Sania Mirza, Mary Kom shinning in their respective fieldssetting examples of extraordinary strength of women.

Alarming statistics of female foeticide in India.

Reading such news everyday one is forced to think about the status of women, Are women really equal to men?  Do they actually deserve equal status?  If they do then what is wrong with our society?  Our governments and society have been laying different  rules and practices to enable women to get equal status.  But seeing the current situation in India it is very clear that they have not been successful or a very minimal improvement has happened.  Is their approach wrong or there is something more to it which they are not addressing to?  What is the responsibility of the society in general and families in particular?    

Religion is a very important deciding factor in every walk of life of an Indian.  For Indians religion Is a way of life.  It guides day to day thinking and working.  Let’s see what Hinduism, which is the largest followed religion in India, says about the status of women.  Hinduism is a religion where God has himself, in many forms and at different times, lived on the earth among common people preaching them how to handle each and every life situation by bearing it on themselves, by setting themselves as examples, by enacting stories giving long lasting lessons.  Hinduism has recorded millions of deities who have visited earth in different life forms to give guidelines to the society.

If on one hand we have examples of male Gods showing valour and aggression like Lord Shiva, Rama and Krishna, same way we hear stories of Goddess Durga and Chandi showing similar courage and fierceness of a warrior.  If we consider Lord Kuber as God managing wealth, we pray Goddess Lakshmi for prosperity.  During Diwali, the most important festival among Hindus, the main worship is offered to Goddess Lakshmi.   Goddess Saraswati is a symbol of intellect and wisdom.

In all the stories of hinduism history women had been given equal respect and status as was being given to men.  They were never referred to as fairer or weaker beings.  Women were a part of all the rituals and without their participation prayers and hawans were not considered complete.  The famous Hindu prayer commencing with the words “tvameva mata cha pita tvameva” is recited by all the Hindus atleast once in their lifetime.  The prayer refers same God as being our mother and father, hence showing gender equality and giving equal importance to both.  

As per Rigveda if a man is married, he cannot perform Vedic ceremonies without his wife.  A wife is called “Ardhangini” meaning equal half of one’s self.  A hindu wedding ceremony requires the bride and the groom going around sacred fire altar seven times.  Four of these steps are lead by the bride and three by the groom, another example of equal status.  In every aspect of life women were considered important and powerful.  Even in as old epics as Ramayana there are examples of women being warriors and their have been ample examples of women handling swords in the later tales.  Queen Kaikayi and King Dashratha fought a war together in which Queen Kaikayi saved his life due to which Dashratha vowed to follow whatever she said.

When Lord Rama had to separate from Goddess Sita due to the comments of a common man, he did not consider Sita to be a weak person.  With due confidence he sent her alone to live in jungles.  He had no doubts that she will not be able to manage alone otherwise he would not have taken such a harsh decision.  Goddess Durga’s incarnation Maa Vaishno Devi all alone was able to kill a giant and powerful demon Bhairav Nath.  She must have been physically very powerful and having warrior capabilities to be able to kill him.  This job could have been done by some other male god also if they considered women to be weak.

There are examples of rituals in Hinduism being performed to pray for the birth of a girl child, today we kill girls in the wombs itself.  In the past society had given rights to women to choose their own marriage partners, Swayamvars are a proof of it.  Today in same India mostly girls have no or very minimal say and have to marry unknown partners whosoever their families select for them.  We pray to Goddess Saraswati for intellectual powers and deny education to our own girl children.  We pray to Goddess Durga but deny equal opportunities to our daughters to develop physical strength.  We buy toy guns for our sons and dolls for daughters.  I should confess here that even I do the same because even my daughter has been unintentionally trained by family and society around to like only so called girlish toys.  Now we are trying hard to develop her interest in active sports and fighting skills.

Gods and Goddesses who created Hinduism and whose teachings we are supposed to follow, never differentiated on gender basis.  There were no separate rules for men and women.  If Lord Rama took birth in a family where his father had three wives,  Lord Krishna supported Pandavas where one wife had five husbands thereby endorsing equal rights for men and women in this aspect also and acceptable by society during those times.  Their are no examples of male gods referring to female gods as being weak or not equal to men in any aspect.  Something went wrong in the recent history of hindu culture that women started to be treated and considered as weaker beings.  They were considered as fit for the job of home makers only.  They were no more trusted with business and jobs requiring physical strength.  Women were expected and trained to be delicate creatures.   This could have happened because of the interactions with other cultures where women were not considered equal OR there is every possibility that Hindu men got greedy or scared because of the capabilities of women and tried to overpower them.  

The status of women was misinterpreted and revised code of conduct was created by the so called higher class to gain control over women and society in general.  This is exactly the same situation like the caste system which was created to reap the benefits of specialization over generations but was later misinterpreted in the name of religion and karma by the educated and warrior classes to overpower other sections of society and declared themselves as supreme and better than others.  Same people jeopardized the equal status of women.

Women were started to be considered and treated as physically and intellectually weak.  They were not trusted with business and war activities.  They were made financially and physically dependent on men and required to just follow instructions like slaves.  After generations of such treatment and oppression today women have actually genetically become physically weaker than men.  

My eldest sister got married when I was 10 years old.  She moved to her new house which was 80 kms from us.  She was not allowed to travel alone and most of the times I had to escort her as a bodyguard even though their were other sisters available who were older than me.  But just because of being a male I, a 12 years old was considered more strong and supposed to protect a 22 years old woman.  My father, a businessman was considered modern in those days as he provided good education to all his daughters but even he did not provide business training to any of them.  My elder brother and myself were introduced to business starting at the age of 14 years.  I do not blame my father or any other family because then the culture and condition of the society was such that it was quite normal and wise for them not to have taken the risk of sending their daughters to face the male dominated ruthless world.

A very important point to consider here is that God has given different body structures to men and women.  Men are supposed to have more physical strength.  But I believe in the beginning this should not have been the situation as it is now.  Women in older times must be very strong physically also.  God has given the responsibility of giving birth to life to women only.  To bear that pain itself requires a lot of strength which I believe most of the men would not be able to manage.  Being able to bear pain is one of the important requirements of becoming a good fighter.  All the women have that prerequisite and they just need to cover the remaining half by developing the strength to hit back.  This is not very difficult and women have done it time and again.  Very few male warriors had the courage to match the capabilities of Rani Laxmi bai.  How many men would be able to bear the punches of Mary Kom?  Sania Mirza can easily compete and win against most of the male tennis players in the country.  P.T.Usha can run faster than most of the men in the country.  It is just a matter of training and the way generation after generation women have becoming genetically weak same way they can become equally strong.      

In the west(Europe and North America) women have been able to achieve respectable status.  But still it is not to an extent that it can be treated as equal to men.  Even there women are treated as physically weak.  Today women are being used as a bait to lure men.  Women clothing is one very good example.  Any designer or brand designs revealing clothes for women but full body covering clothes for men for the same occasion.  I got several opportunities to visit Europe and North America.  It is very ironical to notice that on a very cold evening for a party most of the women arriving shivering in very thin and differently cut party dresses but most of the men in 3 piece suits leaving only their hands and face open to bitter cold.  Dressing is a very personal choice but the point I want to raise here is that due to male domination even fashion designers may have started designing such clothes to make women look more attractive to men.  The same concept is still going on for ages may be unintentionally now.  Even in the west people would call it unfashionable and may laugh if a woman arrives at an evening party in a 3 piece suit with a tie but the same is accepted normal for men. 

Today women are struggling to regain their lost status and a lot of them have become good examples by reaching top positions in different professions and by developing physical strength to the extent of commanding respect.  But still the effect of these examples has not percolated to the masses.  The numbers are far from changing the mentality of the society overall.  A very recent example,  a squad of women commandos especially trained to protect VIP’s was left unemployed as no VIP wanted to take risk of their life.  Women really need to come forward in large numbers and set everyday examples of especially physical strength and intelligence to be able to change the thinking process of the society.  Parents of girls have to take this responsibility to promote their daughters right from childhood.  They should give equal responsibilities and facilities to their both male and female children.    

The concept of reservation and special facilities for women should be written off immediately.  It has done more harm than any good as it keeps reminding the society that women are weak and without reservation cannot equally compete with men.  Reserved seats for women in buses and trains, separate queue for women, extra income tax benefits, reservation in jobs and now in parliamentary elections also.  An old man 60 years age standing in a bus to give seat to a 25 years old woman is a common sight in India and it gives clear message to all the onlookers that women are physically weak.  To get equal status they should compete equally.  Maybe one or two generations have to suffer but this will eventually change the mindset of the society in general.  It is the duty of the governments to provide sufficient and efficient facitlities to train the women better.  Law should punish harshly the perpetrators for crimes against women.

However the real change will happen only when women themselves have the courage and strength to fight back.  A girl herself slapping an eve teaser and having strength to fight one to one will only ensure that this menace becomes history.  Every woman should become financially independent.  I hope very soon we see the day when we have one common national cricket team.  The day when we see both men and women soldiers patrolling our countrie’s borders marching together shoulder to shoulder.  The day when women also take pride in showing their swollen biceps and 6 pack abs.  When the word “Dowry” is studied in history books only.  And finally on a lighter note the day when we have as many complaints of adam teasing as we get for eve teasing.  That will be the day when we can actually say Women have achieved equal status in every aspect.

Finally I would like to say that atleast in Hindu society we should follow what our Gods wanted us to do.  We should respect and treat women as equals.  If we do not do so that means we consider our epics as just stories for entertainment not real happenings or lessons from our Gods.